HOUSEHOLDS in East Lancashire are among the hardest hit in the North West by the bedroom tax.

One year on from its implementation, numbers of people paying the spare room subsidy was expected to decline, as residents downsized to avoid payment.

Nationally the number of tenants paying the subsidy has decreased by15 per cent, meaning 85 per cent of people are still being hit.

Blackburn reflected the national trend, with numbers having declined by 15.4 per cent. In Hyndburn numbers had fallen by 18.7 per cent. But in the Ribble Valley and Rossendale the overwhelming majority of people are still paying the subsidy.

The Ribble Valley has only seen a decline of 8.1 per cent, the third smallest decrease in the region, while Rossendale has seen the smallest decrease in the North West, at just 1.8 per cent.

Rossendale’s Labour parliamentary candidate said this was down to a lack of available smaller housing for people to move into. Will Straw said: “These shocking figures show how the bedroom tax is failing as a policy.

“It’s not doing what it intended to and is placing a huge financial burden of hundreds of people in Rossendale.

“Labour has said it will scrap the bedroom tax because it’s unfair, unworkable and ultimately likely to cost more to implement than it will save.

“Of course we need to try to get welfare costs under control, but this is not the way to do it.”

But Rossendale’ Conservative MP Jake Berry defended the policy. He said: “Labour left our welfare system in a complete and utter mess. We have had to take some tough decisions but I believe they were the right ones.

“Reforming housing benefit was absolutely necessary to get to grips with the problems of overcrowding in social housing.

“Over 350,000 people in the UK live in overcrowded homes.

“I’ve spoken to a number of parents in the Valley who want to move to a bigger house, but can’t.

“So they are stuck having to share rooms with their with children in cramped accommodation whilst others live in houses that have more bedrooms than they need.

“Labour let the housing benefit bill spiral completely out of control. It would have reached an unbelievable £26billion by 2015.

“It isn’t fair to ask families that work hard and do the right thing to pay for spare bedrooms for people that don’t need them.”